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Samuel Mirelez, Little Masterpieces (Birdhouse yard show)

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About the Artist/Site

Born and raised in Kenedy, TX to a watchmaker/jeweler and his wife, after high school and service in the Air Force during the Korean War Mirelez worked as an instrument mechanic and technician on the airplanes at Kelly Field, a position he held for 38 years. He had always liked to work with his hands, and he recalled that he used to carve wooden toy airplanes as a boy; even while he was working at Kelly Field, he retained his interest in making things, and made a few birdhouses for friends. They were enthusiastically greeted, and so he continued to make more of them; he gave them away or sold them, but also began keeping many to adorn his own yard, and after his retirement, he began creating ever greater numbers of the unique structures.

Mirelez had originally worked in wood, but found that after a few years the birdhouses rotted away; next, he used tin coffee cans to make a replica of the San Fernando Cathedral where he and his wife had been married, but this piece – an anniversary present for his wife – rusted. Finally, he turned to aluminum, which neither rots nor rusts. He acquired prepainted enamelized scrap aluminum siding from friends who were local contractors and/or installed siding on houses or carports, and began combing through magazines, history books that he would borrow from the local library, postcards, and other sources to find inspiration for the creation of a wide variety of miniature buildings. Pop-riveted together and maintained in the same color as the aluminum siding (mostly white), the structures included houses of all shapes and sizes, churches, and castles, as well as numerous replicas of famous buildings such as the White House, the Alamo, the Kremlin, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Chrysler Building, and more. Others were simply products of his imagination. The works ranged in size from just a few inches tall with a single opening to 3- to 4-foot-high purple martin condominiums with fifteen or more “apartments.” At any given time, some 500 birdhouses were on display in his yard and around his home.

His most popular sellers – and, consequently, those of which he made numerous copies – included the San Antonio mission and the University of Texas and Texas A&M administration buildings. He was happy to create a miniature birdhouse portrait of any building (including a visitor’s home) if given a photograph. Among his collectors were Laura and George Bush, who first learned of him when they lived in the Texas Governor’s Mansion; they later purchased a White House birdhouse that they hung in the yard of their Crawford, Texas ranch.

Mirelez created hundreds of miniature buildings, most mounted on top of aluminum poles and towering over the roof of his home, although some were screwed onto the rooftop itself, and others were hung from tree branches or from the eaves of the house, or placed on shelves around the carport. Most are gabled, with little perches outside each bird opening; some have conical turrets and lacey struts, crenellations and parapets, archways and “wooden” beams.

Although Mirelez passed away in 2007 from liver cancer (and its intrusive treatment), the site is cared for by the family and remains basically intact.

~Jo Farb Hernández



SPACES Archives Holdings

1 folder: clippings, correspondence, and images

Map and site information

211 Storeywood Drive
San Antonio, Texas, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 29.503194 / -98.529322

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